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The Rediff Interview/National Security Adviser M K Narayanan
'We will decide how many bombs we want'
October 06, 2005
In the concluding part of his exclusive interview with rediff India Abroad, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan tells Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt and Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Lakshman that if the Americans don't do what they have promised, India won't do what it has to do.
Many critics of the agreement say that once the civilian and military nuclear establishments are separated then India cannot obtain fissile material from civilian reactors and give it to the military establishment. What will happen in effect is that India's cost of research and development of military weapons will go up manifold, making it unaffordable. Second, the ambiguity and opacity about India's nuclear program, which is helping the country's national security establishment, will disappear when you accept this arrangement with the United States. Now the world does not know how many nuclear bombs India has.
How would you or anyone know (how many bombs India has)? What we do on our military side will remain completely opaque.
Have the Americans not made it very costly and difficult for India to make this division?
That's okay. There's a cost to be paid. It is like globalisation. Are we not paying a cost? Why are we paying the cost? The cost is only because we want to raise power from civilian nuclear sources from the present 3,500 or 4,000 to 30,000 or 25,000 megawatts. That is the fundamental issue. If the country says it doesn't want nuclear fuel you don't have to do this.
What do we get in return is the basic issue. It is not that we can't do it. You can do it. We can decide how many reactors we wish to put on the military list and how many on the civilian list. That is our choice.
It is for us to also decide how many bombs we want to have. Not for somebody else. If we want 20, 50, 150 -- I mean, short of saying we want to bomb every country in existence -- there is a finite number you can reach. What you have compromised in return is that you will separate (civilian and military nuclear establishments). And make it available to put under safeguards.
Once that happens you can't move from civilian to military. Even on that, the pundits have various views. I am taking what we call the best of worst-case scenario saying that you don't. If you decide to put five, six, ten, twenty (reactors for military purposes) whatever number you want, you can have it.
If you ask me will there be problems about that, that is not part of the understanding (with the US). Maybe when you start implementing (the agreement) a lot of people will say why do you want so many? Therein lies the skill of the working groups negotiating the process.
I don't think there is anything intrinsically in the agreement where our position is worse than what it is today. What we are really doing is that we are leveraging the situation to create opportunity for fresh and additional fuel for our civilian nuclear program.
That's the choice we have made. Somebody may say 'Oh, the American will not permit you to do this.' Fine, if we can't do it, then we won't separate civilian and nuclear sites. If they don't do what they have promised, we won't do what we have to do. That is the understanding on both sides.
Is the transformed relationship between India and the United States then irreversible?
First of all, I don't think there is a transformed relationship of the kind we talk about. It is not as if there is a sudden change of heart.
There is a change. It is a kind of healthy, democratic change. Both countries now recognise each other as willing to have a partnership. But certainly the US would like to keep its options; India is not going to give up its options or vice versa.
I am rather reticent about using the words 'transformed relationship.' We use it, but it doesn't mean that suddenly everything has changed between India and the United States. Both countries are today more mature in dealing with each other. They gave F-16s to Pakistan. Earlier we would have gone ballistic. Today, when they offered us F-16s we said okay, but we have got the French Mirages, the Sukhois, the Grippens. It is a nature of how we look at things.
We are now a country people are looking forward to. That is the major transformation.
So it is imperative that India maintains its economic edge.
Of course! Economic and political. We can't have economics without politics and security. That is why we stress so much on terrorism.
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